Friday, 25 July 2008

25% against DISCUSSION on divorce?

At the time of writing, almost a quarter of all respondents to an online poll on The Times voted no to the question "Do you feel the time has come for Malta to discuss the introduction of divorce?". Holy beeep! 24.5% don't want it discussed! Makes you wonder whether the question should have been "Do you feel the time has come to start thinking about the concept of entertaining the possibility of eventually starting to consider a discussion about divorce".

Meanwhile, the bishop of Gozo chimed in, adding his view that Christians should not be held back from expressing their views about "a monogamous and indissoluble marriage". Here's a thought Bish, why not find out what those Christians think rather than telling them what to say? Most of us know of a few cases where that indissoluble marriage turned out to be not so indissoluble after all.

Divorce is one of the main issues in which the church keeps repeating its mantras, about how it will undermine society, weaken the family and so on. Of course one has to wonder just how healthy our divorce-free society is. "Oh yeah my mom is married... but not to the man she's with".

Divorce does not break up families, nor does it dissolve marriages. It is the recognition that a marriage has already ceased to exist. It's not happily married couples who get divorced. It's the couple who are already living apart, often with new partners, and whose love for one another has either been quenched, or sometimes turned into bitterness. To call a couple in such a situation "married" is absurd.

In fact it is not divorce that renders marriage meaningless, it is the absence of divorce. It's better, and more meaningful, to accept and admit that a marriage has failed, than either to pretend that it's still valid, or (in the case of annulment) to pretend that it never happened. These anomalies are based on the flawed assumption that marriage is forever. Certainly, couples getting married should - and do - try to make it work forever, but good intentions are not always enough. Sometimes they break apart despite the good intentions on both sides, and sometimes the good intentions become one-sided with time. This is certainly an unfortunate situation, and it's a good thing for society to try to examine the causes and do what it can to prevent couples from getting to this stage. Eventually however, some will still get to a point when there is no way to stay together. When the only thing left of a marriage is a piece of paper in the public registry, it's time to call a spade a spade and accept that the marriage is over.

Divorce needs to be introduced, and care needs to be taken not to repeat the mistakes of other places. Nobody is calling for a Hollywood-style situation where you can get married in the morning and divorced in the afternoon. Neither should we go for the situation in which a divorce requires one of the couple to sue the other for wrongdoing, which inevitably leads all divorces to become bitter legal battles with hatred on both sides. Hence the need for a discussion and a well planned introduction.

Divorce has been available in most countries around the world, and statistics exist to show where the rate is highest. Not surprisingly, the US tops that list. Italy in the meantime remains closer to the bottom - and personally I think that Maltese society and personalities are much closer to Italian than Las Vegas.

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